Amnesty slams 'outrageous' jailing of online satirist

Amnesty slams 'outrageous' jailing of online satirist

An online activist received a six month jail term, minus time already served, in a Friday sentencing at a Rangoon court.

After an October arrest, Kachin man Patrick Kum Jaa Lee is set for release in April 2016.

Amnesty International labeled the Hlaing Township Court verdict ‘outrageous’, and called for his immediate release.

The decision comes on the same day that 102 prisoners walked free under a presidential amnesty.

“Today’s events perfectly sum up how the Burmese authorities give with one hand and take with the other. Just hours after the prisoner amnesty was announced, an activist has been sentenced to six months in jail for nothing but a harmless Facebook post,” said Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Burma Researcher.

“Although we are delighted for those who walk free today, scores more remain behind bars while hundreds of other peaceful activists are on bail facing jail time.

“Amnesties like the one today have little positive long-term effect as long as the same repressive practices fueling arbitrary arrests and detention of activists continue. The guilty verdict against Patrick Kum Jaa Lee is outrageous and must be overturned,” Laura Haigh added.

The NGO worker was arrested at his home in October 2015, after allegedly posting to social media a mocked-up image of Tatmadaw Commander in Chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing being stepped on.

“The military is sending a very clear message that whoever tries to touch or criticise them, they will seriously take action,” said his wife, the women’s rights activist May Sabe Phyu told Reuters.

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The defence team representing the Kachin man had applied for bail in November, citing his ailing health and worsening asthma attacks, but were denied by the court.

“He’s been having difficulty breathing and has only his inhaler to rely on. But according to his doctor, it can’t be used more than twice. Being an asthma sufferer, he frequently experiences a collapsing airway and has to use the inhaler to ease it, but that doesn’t seem to be helping now as he’s hacking a lot of mucus,” his lawyer El Kunyein Pang said in November 2015.

His was the second high-profile social media arrest leading up to Burma’s historic election. He was detained just days after Chaw Sandi Htun, a Maubin woman who also sentenced to six months.

Both were charged under article 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Law. The charge comes under Burma’s Penal Code and relates to “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person by using any telecommunications network”.

 

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